Bad news is grim read­ing for crime writ­ers

Re­bus au­thor fears global crises turn read­ers off nitty-gritty nov­els Best-seller Ian Rankin says trend is for kinder, gen­tler books

The Sunday Post (Newcastle) - - NEWS - By Toby McDon­ald MAIL@SUN­DAY­POST.COM

Re­bus cre­ator Ian Rankin has fore­cast the death of the crime novel.

The au­thor – whose 21 books have sold mil­lions of copies world­wide – said bad news was killing them off.

The rise of Don­ald Trump, ter­ror­ist at­tacks and mass shoot­ings have left peo­ple yearn­ing for “kind and gen­tle” books, he claimed.

The writer is on a global tour to cel­e­brate the 30th an­niver­sary of his fa­mous fic­tional de­tec­tive John Re­bus.

But he said the bleak­ness of events world­wide was chang­ing read­ers’ habits.

The 57- year- old au­thor said: “Right now, the world seems so crazy and ir­ra­tional that many nov­el­ists have dif­fi­culty try­ing to shape it into a co­her­ent nar­ra­tive.

“Fic­tion must be cred­i­ble. The real world right now feels to me like the op­po­site of that.

“Peo­ple crave nor­mal­ity and sto­ries of kind peo­ple help­ing each other.”

He added: “I think this may hap­pen – a move away from se­rial killers and bleak dystopian crime fic­tion to­wards some­thing with a more com­fort­ing mes­sage.

“Maybe good will be seen to tri­umph and or­di­nary peo­ple will over­come crises in psy­cho­log­i­cal crime nov­els.”

Rankin has sold 30 mil­lion nov­els and his Re­bus books have been trans­lated into 22 languages in three decades.

They have been made into two tele­vi­sions se­ries star­ring John Han­nah and Ken Stott.

His 22 nd novel about the Ed­in­burgh de­tec­tive will be pub­lished in au­tumn 2018.

But Rankin – who earns around £250,000-a-year – said he was too set in his ways to give up on Re­bus.

He said: “I am too much of a cynic. Maybe my books will be­come wilder and more chaotic in­stead.

“Ev­ery theme can best be ex­plored with a de­tec­tive.

“When I write, I feel like a child, play­ing games and hav­ing ad­ven­tures with my imag­i­nary friends in a uni­verse where I get to play God.”

The au­thor de­nied that pub­lish­ing is too “white, male and stale.

“New voices are al­ways be­ing heard and crime fic­tion is lead­ing the way. Re­cently there has been the suc­cess of Scan­di­na­vian crime fic­tion and this has led pub­lish­ers to look at other cul­tures in search of the ‘Next Big Thing’.”

Yes­ter­day, Joseph Knobbs, crime buyer for Water­stones, one of Bri­tain’s lead­ing book­sell­ers, said Rankin’s claim was a mys­tery to him. He said: “If any­thing, cur­rently, we’re see­ing the op­po­site. Dystopian clas­sics such as 1984, It Can’t Hap­pen Here and Fahren­heit 451 have all been sur­prise run­away best sell­ers this year.

“No doubt some read­ers will go look­ing for that com­fort book, but as me­dia such as The Jinx, Se­rial and Mak­ing A Mur­derer sug­gests, peo­ple are still en­rap­tured by tales of crime and pun­ish­ment.

“As for Rankin and Re­bus, noth­ing ex­cites me more than his sug­ges­tion that his own work might get wilder and more chaotic in re­sponse to the world!”

Re­cent fig­ures show crime fic­tion sales in the UK are now al­most £ 200 mil­lion a year, eas­ily beat­ing celebrity bi­og­ra­phy, ro­mance, food and drink.

Scot­tish crime writ­ing – Tar­tan Noir – is en­joy­ing a new golden age with writ­ers like Val Mc­Der­mid and Denise Mina among the best-sell­ing stars at home and abroad.

The suc­cess of Scots writ­ers has ben put down to a strong sense of place, like Rankin with Ed­in­burgh, and McIl­van­ney with Glas­gow.

And it has even sparked a tourism boom with the an­nual Bloody Scot­land crime writ­ing fes­ti­val and the Re­busFest fes­ti­val this year as fans flock to hear their favourite au­thors talk about their books.

Ian Rankin, main, and Bloody Scot­land cel­e­brates Tar­tan Noir

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